Hard Times as a Moral Fable

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TOPIC:-What is Moral Fable? How can you say that Hard Times is a Moral Fable? BY: CHETAN ANKUR

Moral fable combines the left (logical) & right (creative) side of the brain, so it both entertains creatively and validates certain types of behaviour, morally.

The creative part is the fairy tale which often involves animals rather than humans. It speaks to our hearts as it entertains us; the ending is the logical, moral conclusion that satisfies our logical brains and seems "right". The problem with all moral fables is that there are often 2 sides to the same story ... things are rarely so black and white in reality ... so there could be more than one ending ... e.g. there are times when speed is necessary over steadiness - of course, there also has to be good judgement. Although it is not appropriate to describe a work of art, which Hard Times undoubtedly is, as a moral fable or a morality play, yet the fact remains that there is a strong moral intention behind this novel. Hard Times is a satirical attack on some of the evils and vices of Victorian society. Satire has always corrective purpose and is therefore basically moral in its approach to the subjects it deals with. Apart from that, there are passages of direct moralising in this novel.

Hard Times is a novel which from the moment of its publication aroused very different sentiments in the reading public. Dickens's reasons for writing Hard Times were mostly monetary. Sales of his weekly periodical, Household Words, were low, and he hoped the inclusion of this novel in instalments would increase sales. Since publication it has received a mixed response from a diverse range of critics, such as F.R. Leavis, George Bernard Shaw, and Thomas Macaulay, mainly focusing on Dickens's treatment of trade unions and his post-Industrial Revolution pessimism regarding the divide between Capitalist mill owners and undervalued workers during the Victorian era The novel was written as a weekly serial story to run through five months of his magazine, Household Words, during 1854. Sales were highly responsive and encouraging for Dickens who remarked that he was "Three parts mad, and the fourth delirious, with perpetual rushing at Hard Times". Dickens had to force his story to fit the exigencies of a Procrustean bed and, in doing so, sacrificed the abundance of life characteristic of his genius. That, at any rate, was the general view of Hard Times until in 1948 F.R. Leavis, in his book The Great Tradition, suggested that it was a 'moral fable,' the hallmark of a moral fable being that 'the intention is peculiarly insistent, so that the representative significance of everything in the fable - character, episode, and so on - is immediately apparent as we read.'By seeing it as a moral fable, Dr. Leavis produced a brilliant rereading of Hard Times that has changed almost every critic's approach to the novel. Yet a difficulty still remains: the nature of the target of Dickens' satire. Both Gradgrind and Bounderby are emblematic, to the point of caricature, of representative early-nineteenth-century attitudes. Dickens tells us that Gradgrind has 'an unbending, utilitarian, matter-of-fact face'; and the novel has been taken as an attack on the philosophical doctrine known as utilitarianism, the doctrine that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct But utilitarianism can also mean the doctrine that utility must be the standard of what is good for man. Perhaps the two meanings come together in the famous Victorian phrase, 'enlightened self-interest,' the meaning of which will turn entirely upon the definition of 'enlightened.' Utilitarianism in the philosophical sense, as taught by the noble-minded John Stuart Mill, has had a profound and abiding influence on Western life and thought, and Dickens was certainly not competent to criticise it as a philosophical system. But if he was no philosopher, nor even a...